‘The Taming of the Shrew’ at Synetic Theater by Natalie McCabe

There is a fine, fine line between loving and loathing, in the “interplay of joy and darkness,” as Director Paata Tsikurishvili, and Founding Artistic Director, and CEO of Synetic Theater so elegantly writes in the program’s ‘Director’s Note.’  This is illustrated well in the theater’s latest production The Taming of the Shrew – in their ‘Silent Shakespeare’ series – which had the Ambassador from the Republic of Georgia himself on his feet giving a standing ovation at the curtain. After all, as Tsikurishvili continues, “This is territory where Synetic excels -our process is adept at taking archetypes and translating it into a striking visual language.”

Irina Tsikurishvili as Katherine, Ryan Sellers as Petruchio, and Alex Mills as Grumio. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Before the production began, Tsikurishvili attempted to pull an April Fool’s Day prank on the audience, saying that Synetic was moving to Los Angeles after this season for an offer of $20 million. However, it is Petruchio (a dashing, passionate Ryan Sellers) who truly takes home the prize in the form of Katherine (Synetic’s powerful and fiery choreographer, Irina Tsikurishvili) – and, of course, that $20 million check.

Set in a “Hollywood-esque” Padua, the show opens to a dreary, yet slightly off-kilter dark set at the funeral of Katherine and sister Bianca’s mother. Their father, Baptista (a confidant Hector Reynoso), a famous fashion designer in Synetic’s production is hounded by paparazzi and his youngest daughter’s potential suitors (the clownish and physical actors Scott Brown (Lucentio), Vato Tsikurishvili  (Hortensio), and Philip Fletcher (Gremio). However, he decrees that before Bianca (a flirty Irina Kavsadze) can be wedded, Katherine, as the elder daughter, must marry first. This proves not only difficult but potentially hazardous to the health of anyone brave enough to step up to the plate. For example, during one of Katherine’s rages, she shoves a cell phone up an unmentionable area of Hortensio, proving that Synetic’s works are both beautiful and brutal, full of “joy and darkness,” in their innovative and honest reworkings of classical tales. Petruchio, here a struggling avant-garde painter, does just that, first by “taming” the shrewish Katherine and then finding raw fervor, both for his new wife and his painting, enflamed.

Left to right: Vato Tsikurishvili as Hortensio, and Irina Kavsadze as Bianca. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

You can easily see why Synetic has recently dominated the ‘ensemble’ category at The Helen Hayes Awards, because, again, this hard working and incredibly talented ensemble of Shrew – which also includes Alex Mills (Grumio), Renata Veberyte Loman (Widow), Dallas Tolentino (Tranio), Chris Galindo (Tailor), and Katherine Frattini (Model) – beautifully fleshes out the story, effortlessly weaving the tale through Irina Tsikurishvili’s high energy choreography, whether it involves dance, stage combat, mime, or other forms of movement.

What this hard-working ensemble and group of designers accomplish in 90 minutes is visually stunning, jaw-dropping and simply breathtaking.

Anastasia R. Simes, both the set and costume designer, certainly has her hands full with this production. Her over-the-top costumes – utilizing a rainbow of colors in some spots, intense dark shades in others – create the appropriate feel for a land that is both modern, media-driven Hollywood and Shakespearean Padua. The set floats around as easily as Simes’ costumes appear to, artfully showcasing the strong emotions at play in this off-kilter world. With a heart-thumping original score by Konstantine Lortkipanidze, sound design by Irakli Kavsadze and Paata Tsikurishvili, gorgeous lighting by Collin K. Bills, and eye-popping multi-media miracles supplied by Clint Herring and Riki K., Synetic has upped the ante with even more visual and technological wonders with Shrew.

You have three more weeks to absorb this show’s intensity, which I highly recommend, for, dancing or not, spoken or silent, you have never seen the Bard’s work leap like this!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Synetic Theater’s The Taming of the Shrew is playing now through April 22, 2012 at the Lansburgh Theatre – 450 7th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (800) 494 – 8497, or purchase them online.


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